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Passing Game Wants 'Chunk' Of Big Plays

Posted Dec 27, 2017

With the regular-season finale on Sunday and then a week off before preparation begins for the postseason, the Eagles understand they have a lot of work to do to play their best football in the playoffs. They’ve won three of their four games in December, crunch month in the NFL, but they haven’t exactly been at their best.

And while the defense rose to the occasion on Monday night and forced five turnovers, one that resulted in a touchdown, and another stop on a fourth down against Oakland in a 19-10 win, the offense struggled save a second-possession touchdown drive that ended on a Nick Foles pass to Jay Ajayi, a perfectly executed screen play that ended with Ajayi diving into the end zone.

“We didn’t play very well on offense and we have a lot to clean up and improve,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “The good part is that we won the game and at the end there, we were able to move the ball into field goal range. That was good execution.

“We need to be better. We need to run the ball better and we need more ‘chunk’ plays in the passing game.”

While Foles found tight end Zach Ertz nine times in the victory, he wasn’t able to get much going with the wide receivers, who caught five passes for 40 yards. Nelson Agholor had four of those receptions, while Alshon Jeffery had zero. Jeffery was targeted only two times.

The Eagles just didn’t generate much down the field, with Ertz gaining 25 yards on a catch-and-run. Otherwise, nada. In his 13 games played, Carson Wentz completed 25 passes of 20-plus yards to his wide receivers and the Eagles scored plenty of points on offense.

It’s not a coincidence. You need big plays to score big points in the NFL.

“It helps when you can get the ball down the field with big plays,” Pederson said after the Week 1 win at Washington where Wentz completed four passes of 20-plus yards, three to his wide receivers including a 58-yard touchdown heave to Agholor. “They can really break down a defense.”

So that’s a focus moving forward. For his part, Jeffery downplayed the lack of activity in Monday’s game when he was pressed about it by reporters on Wednesday at the NovaCare Complex.

“There is more than one way to affect the game. As long as we got the win, that’s all that matter,” he said. “I wasn’t frustrated. Of course I want to get the ball, but all that matters to me is the win.”

Foles tossed four touchdown passes in his first start a few weeks ago when the Eagles beat the New York Giants, a point Jeffery made in the midst of his session with the media.

“You wouldn’t ask me those questions after the Giants game,” Jeffery said. “Things are going pretty well. It was just that game. Coverage dictates where the ball goes. That’s what happened. I always just say to myself, ‘Patience. Patience and timing.’ I’m not rushing anything. As long as we win the game, that’s all that matters.”

He’s right about that, and the Eagles keep winning. Come playoff time, it will be important to stretch the field and get the “chunk” back in the Eagles' offensive profile.

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